Ignacia Orellana

Building an inclusive and diverse design team in Digital Identity

by Ignacia

Image of a person looking at the screen of an open laptop. The focus is on the screen and it says "Our mission: Make it easy for everyone to access government services"


In March 2021 GDS's Digital Identity and One Login for government programme was set up to replace GOV.UK Verify; the platform that helps people prove their identity when accessing government services.

The programme needed to improve equity and inclusion in the new service being developed, as well as setting up high functioning teams to support the delivery of an ambitious project.

My role and approach

I joined the programme in April 2021 - initially as the lead service designer and then later as the acting Head of Design.

I worked with teams to identify design needs across the programme, and supported them by creating a pipeline of design roles or filling in gaps when needed.

I recruited and built an inclusive and diverse design team, while meeting the urgent design needs of the teams and the work.

I developed processes and a culture that enabled user-centred design to flourish in the programme by:

  • Setting up a regular session for designers to share work in progress and join-up across teams and strands of work
  • Setting up 1-1s with all designers (permanent and contractors) to support them in the work and unblock any issues
  • Connecting permanent designers and contractors with wider GDS and design community to ensure we are following standards and we’re not duplicating work
  • Running workshops with teams in Digital Identity and GOV.UK to join-up, share knowledge, prototypes, and plan work for the GOV.UK Accounts product.
  • Encouraging designers to contribute back designs and learnings, for example by sharing with the GOV.UK Design System team patterns that were emerging from the sign-on and authentication work
  • Working with UCD leads to create induction sessions and run community sessions across content, design, and user research community. For example, by leading a session on how we document our work

I worked with other members of the senior management team and discipline leads to create robust organisational structures and processes that support teams to deliver great services. I did this by:

  • Co-leading the design team with lead service designer Clara Greo, and later with head of design Tory Dunn
  • Working with Heads of Disciplines to review the work of teams on a weekly basis
  • Attending check ins and OKR sessions with each team as a Head of Design to advise, course correct when needed and provide support to any blockers (resources, people, decisions)
  • Running workshops with Heads of Disciplines on future vision and roadmap as a starting point for future iterations
  • Supporting teams to prepare for the GOV.UK Sign in service assessment and meet the Service Standard


I grew the design team from 1 permanent designer, to a team of 10 designers in the space of 8 months.

I also brought in contractors to support the work while the recruitment process was ongoing, enabling teams to have the right design capability needed to deliver the goal of launching an identity journey by March 2022.

As acting Head of Design I represented design for the senior leadership team, was able to raise visibility of the practice at a strategic level and made the case to hire a permanent Head of Design in September 2021.

Finally, supported teams and designers to launch the first GOV.UK Sign in journey in November 2021.

Launch of the GOVUK Sign in into public beta, November 2021

Image of a closeup to a laptop screen where the GOV.UK Sign in page is visible

Screenshot of the homepage for the GOV.UK Sign in website